Next German government is likely to support renewables, says German Renewable Energy Foundation

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The German Renewable Energy Foundation (BEE) and analyst Henning Wicht of IHS both agree that the next government of Germany is likely to support renewable energy – but at present uncertainties remain as to what form this support will take.

The German election win by chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrat party was announced on Monday – but the party finished without the absolute majority necessary to form a government.

Although the possibility remains that she will instead press ahead with a minority government, it is expected that Merkel will seek to form a coalition government, most likely with the Social Democrats who have 192 seats. There remains an outside possibility that the Christian Democrats will seek to partner with the Green Party instead. The Greens ended election night with 63 seats.

PV-Tech spoke to Henning Wicht of analysis firm IHS regarding the results. Wicht believes Merkel herself will remain committed to the Energiewende (‘energy transition’), the nation’s move toward a sustainable energy future. Energiewende first began in 2000, has spawned the renewable revolution in Germany in recent years and was stepped up in both tone and content following the disaster at Fukushima in Japan in March 2011. Energiewende represented a strategic decision to move away from nuclear and fossil fuels and was a cornerstone of the nation’s shift away from nuclear power.

According to Wicht, there are two immediately pertinent issues from the point of view of the renewable energy industry; the question of who will be in power besides Merkel – if anyone – and how much importance will be attached to renewable energy in the short term.

In a coalition government, Wicht believes the Greens would unsurprisingly push for accelerated progress in installed renewable energy capacity and reduced overall energy consumption.

On the other hand, it is harder to tell how the Social Democrats might respond, with a strong supporter base among the mining communities of eastern Germany. Wicht believes the Social Democrats may work on restructuring renewable energy policy and funding, to some extent.

However, in Henning Wicht’s estimation, whichever political party or coalition of parties is in power, the next government of Germany is likely to remain broadly supportive of the renewable energy industry. According to Wicht, the business case for the spread of renewable energy is well established in Germany, making a complete u-turn on Energiewende unlikely.

Wicht believes a smaller party such as the Greens might be more innovative and ambitious in their approach to the issue than the bigger parties, with less of a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and a greater ambition to accelerate the spread of technologies for clean energy such as solar power.

The main party commonly considered to be opposed to the Energiewende policy, the Free Democrats, suffered their worst defeat on record, securing just 4.8% of the vote, blowing their chances of joining government out of the water.

It was too early to tell what changes in the Energiewende, if any, would be implemented as a result of the election Wicht said, but it was likely to be strongly influenced by the composition of the next government.

German Renewable Energy Foundation spokesperson Daniel Kluge said in a telephone conversation with PV-Tech that regardless of the eventual outcome of the election process, the industry would continue to fight for rapid installation of renewable energy capacity. He reiterated that in a coalition the Christian Democrats seemed more likely to be partnered by the Social Democrats than the Greens, who appeared unwilling to join Merkel’s government.

BEE believe that much will depend on how strong political and popular support for coal remains, which could be a worry for renewables. Kluge said that capacity for coal powered generation has increased recently in Germany, lowering the price of coal and affecting the competitiveness of renewable energy.

When asked what sort of demands or requests BEE might make of the next government of Germany, Kluge said BEE recognised the difficulties in putting a divisive issue such as Energiewende at the heart of a coalition. However according to BEE it was imperative that the next government should continue to support incentives for renewables, which had thus far been successful in fostering the installation of renewable energy capacity.

Like Henning Wicht, Daniel Kluge and BEE remained broadly optimistic that the Energiewende policy would continue to be supported, but BEE also qualified this by saying that the organisation would prefer to see price mechanisms adjusted to address renewable energy's competitive disadvantages against nuclear and coal.

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